Aug. 18, 2004 – When Divi Carina Bay Casino makes payments to the Internal Revenue Bureau, 2.5 percent of its gaming revenues goes into an escrow account. This money, a tax alternative, is neither the government's nor the casino's to do with as it wants. The two entities have to agree on how it should be put to use.
It is the method mandated by the Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995 to insure that some of a casino's profits are invested in the Virgin Islands in a way that's beneficial for residents.
The government has now agreed with Divi on how the casino can invest $1.2 million.
On Tuesday, in a release, Divi Casino general manager, Barbara Shattles, said that amount from the escrow account will be invested in two projects that also have been approved by the Economic Development Authority:
– Improvements to and operations of Randall "Doc" James Racetrack.
– Establishment of a hospitality industry training facility to serve the whole territory.
Eileen Petersen, chair of the Casino Control Commission, said the commission approved both proposed projects last year and forwarded them to the EDA, which recently announced the final stamp of approval.
Both projects will benefit Virgin Islanders, Petersen said. She appeared especially pleased with the proposed training facility, saying it is needed because there is a lack of training in the area of customer service in the Virgin Islands.
Oceana James, executive director of CHANT which stands for Cultural Heritage and Nature Tourism said such training could be beneficial for many Virgin Islanders. CHANT, a not-for-profit entity founded last year, promotes cultural heritage and nature tours on St. Croix.
James said some residents cannot distinguish between good service and servitude. She expressed hope that the training will be available to all Virgin Islanders, and at an affordable price.
Petersen said the facility will be open to all residents, but details were not available on Tuesday. Its opening is now in the "hands of Divi," she said. Shattles and other Divi mangers were at a function and unavailable for comment.
As for the racetrack project, according to the Divi release, TRAXCO Inc., a subsidiary of Treasure Bay V.I. Corp., the company that manages Divi Carina Bay Casino, has been in negotiations for several months to take over operation of the track.
Shattles, also a director of TRAXCO, Inc. stated: "I believe we are very close to completing all negotiations and contracts for the racetrack and hope that the governor and the Senate will act quickly in their approvals so that the facility can be brought back to the glory that it once knew."
According to Petersen, there is nothing odd about Divi investing in the racetrack. She said investment of the tax alternative funds should be in an area where Divi could make a profit as well as give benefit to Virgin Islanders.
Petersen added that Divi has a couple of hundred thousand dollars more of tax alternative funds available to spend in government-approved investments.
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